This time last year, the State Water Board adopted mandatory 40% instream flows on the Tuolumne – a huge milestone!
While the work is far from over, this marked progress toward the long-term restoration of the river. But with new faces in power, that progress is at risk of being undone. Governor Newsom appears to be headed down a path that spells trouble. He is making decisions that will reverse nearly a decade of hard work that resulted in last year’s State Water Board decision. This decision mandated an increase from 20% to 40% of the river’s flow to stay in the river. This was a step in the right direction for the Tuolumne, but a lot can change in a year. The victory that you fought so hard to win is at risk. Wildfires, drought, and mismanagement of our rivers have gravely threatened the Tuolumne’s health. Governor Newsom is undermining efforts to protect and restore the river, and he’s not alone. While the Governor may appear sympathetic to environmental issues with his anti-Trump rhetoric, the truth is his decisions are working against restoration of the Tuolumne and the life it sustains.
The good news is that not all hope is lost. There is still time to change the Governor’s course.
It began in January 2019,
When Newsom decided not to reappoint environmental champion – Felicia Marcus as chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. Marcus had a long history of guiding the state toward a plan to return more water to the Tuolumne River in order to help recover fish and wildlife in the Tuolumne and Bay-Delta ecosystem.
“The plan angered agricultural water users, many of whom cheered Newsom’s decision not to reappoint Marcus.” – The LA Times Editorial Board
In March 2019,
Governor Newsom warmly embraced Voluntary Agreements, known as “VAs”. The VAs rely on questionable science and do not take into account the fact that water is a public trust resource – water that belongs to all of us is being bought and sold behind closed doors. Instead of wasting valuable time and energy on VA’s the state should be working as fast as possible to implement state regulations for higher instream flows.
Newsom’s unwavering focus on the VA’s spells trouble for the Tuolumne for several reasons. When TRT joined other environmental and fishing groups in releasing an analysis of the proposal, we found that the VA’s:
- Double-count habitat restoration projects that are already required or planned using existing funds, and that would occur without such an agreement;
- Fail to provide sufficient flow increases to protect and restore the Bay-Delta estuary, its native fish and wildlife, and the thousands of jobs that depend on it;
- Fail to include any restrictions on Delta pumping and other operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP); such restrictions are necessary to prevent the water projects from diverting any additional flow provided from upstream farms and cities and to prevent the Trump Administration from gutting Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the Bay-Delta;
- Fail to include carryover storage requirements in upstream reservoirs to ensure water
supplies for future droughts and adequate water temperatures for salmon;
- Fail to ensure that Bay-Delta standards will be enforced and will respond to new scientific information; and
- Fail to include investments in water supply reliability and economic development projects that will help cities and farms adapt to a future with less water diverted from the Bay-Delta.
In October 2019,
Governor Newsom gravely disappointed environmentalists by vetoing SB1 – a bill that would have protected California’s rivers from the Trump Administration’s environmental rollbacks.
SB1 would have given California the ability to better protect salmon, water quality, and our rivers. By vetoing this bill, Newsom has aligned himself with the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine environmental protections.
On November 21st, 2019,
State agencies issued a press release with updates regarding current water policy action. While proclaiming the VAs will be “a game-changer” they will in fact exacerbate the decline of the Bay-Delta ecosystem by ignoring the fact that fish need water.
While this sounds promising, it is not the best effort we expect from Governor Newsom who believes “we must do everything in our power to protect [the state’s remarkable natural resources]”.
If the Governor is doing everything in his administration’s power, he would stop wasting precious time and begin implementing the State Water Board’s mandate of 40% flows, a decision that took over 10 years and countless public meetings. This 40% is still a compromise. Science says the San Joaquin needs at least 60%.
If you are also concerned about the Governor’s trajectory, please join and hold the state accountable! Your support is urgently needed.
With your gift today – as much as you can afford to give – you will become a part of the legacy that brings the river back to health.
Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar up to $50,000. But you must act quickly – this matching opportunity expires on December 31st.
We will use your gift to advocate and encourage the governor to go in a different direction with his water policy. Specifically, we are working to bring science-based information to the Governor and decision-makers that support the rapid implementation of the State Water Board’s Bay-Delta Plan, as opposed to the alternative Voluntary Agreements, which are being misrepresented as a viable solution to river restoration.